Learning to talk, listen, read and write are skills that develop from experiences early in a child’s life, and it all begins with relationships.
Early literacy does not mean early reading! Early Literacy skills are the foundation which are connected throughout all growth and development. Each skill builds on the next, playing an important role in the progression to all types of communication.
Parents and caregivers are a child’s first teachers and early language and literacy skill development takes place through give-and-take relationships. Joint attention is developed when babies and their caregivers share the same focus and interest. Children whose parents and caregivers spend more time in joint attention with them when they are infants have more advanced language at age two.
New findings show that what spurs early language development isn’t so much the quantity of words a child hears, but the style of speech and that the child can relate it to things in their environment.
Infants and toddlers (actually all children and even adults!) learn best using all of their senses to explore their surroundings and this is accomplished through hands-on experiences. Experiences are found in our every day activities, like talking with your baby or toddler about colors, smells and sizes of fruit as you walk through the grocery store. Or realizing that when a baby at eight months old picks up a cheerio with his thumb and finger (pincer grasp), it is practice for picking up a fork to eat, and finally for picking up a pencil to write, which is an important part of literacy!
With so much emphasis lately on test scores and cognitive and academic skills, sometimes it’s hard to just let children play, but play is how they learn. Play is the foundation for growth in all areas of development and happens anywhere, at all times. It’s more natural and fun to learn new skills through play and every day exploration, rather than with worksheets and flash cards.